31 May 5 HEAT-LOVING VEGGIES FOR ARIZONA SUMMERS
In Arizona, we garden year-round, but that doesn’t mean we can grow everything all year. In the low desert of Arizona, the average high temperature in July is between 104℉ and 107℉. Many vegetables cannot tolerate these high temperatures. For example, tomato pollen begins to die when temperatures are over 95℉ (we have to grow our tomatoes in the spring and the fall.) Luckily, there are many vegetables that don’t mind the heat and even thrive in our hot summers. Here are a few to try:
Okra – Okra made Kellogg Garden’s list of the “Top 20 Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden” because it is high in dietary fiber, potassium, folic acid, calcium, and Vitamins B and C. I grew up eating okra; my mom is from Indiana and her mom is from Mississippi, and fried okra from the garden was a summer staple. Okra needs full sun and will produce a steady supply of pods all summer. Okra can tolerate dry soil but produces better with consistent watering. Check plants daily and harvest pods when they are 3-4 inches long. Pods left too long on the plant will become tough and discourage production of more pods. At the end of the season, leave a few okra pods to dry on the plant and harvest the seeds inside to plant the following year.
Asparagus Beans – In Arizona, we grow many varieties of beans throughout the year. The best type to grow in the heat of the summer is asparagus beans, also called snake or oriental beans. Asparagus beans are a vigorous tropical vine that should be grown on a trellis. They need full sun and will wait until it is is very warm to begin producing. The beans can reach about 2 feet in length, but it’s best to harvest them when about 18 inches long and as thick as a pencil. Harvest asparagus beans often to encourage production. As with okra, leave a few beans on the plant at the end of the season and save the seeds for next year.
Sweet Potatoes – This warm season crop native to Central and South America needs a long hot growing season – perfect, Arizona has one! Plant sweet potato slips – which are stem cuttings or plant sprouts from the root – in loose, compost rich soil. As plants get established, provide adequate water but do not overwater. Sweet potato plants do best with a dose of fertilizer in July. The leaves keep the garden looking lush all summer, and as a bonus the leaves are edible and delicious. Harvest sweet potatoes in the fall, just in time for Thanksgiving. For harvesting tips, check out this article.
Malabar Spinach – Most greens have long since bolted and gone to seed, but Malabar spinach will give you fresh greens all summer long. Malabar spinach is an Asian vine in the Basellaceae family. Malabar spinach seeds need warm temperatures to germinate, and once sprouted do well on a trellis. Harvest leaves as you would spinach, Swiss chard or other greens, and use in a salad, smoothies or cooked in soups and stir-fries. Once planted, Malabar spinach often reseeds each year.
Armenian Cucumbers – They are a ribbed variety of muskmelon (and not actually a cucumber) when harvested young, look like a cucumber inside, and taste like a cucumber. Armenian cucumbers thrive in the heat but need consistent moisture to keep from tasting bitter. Grow plants on a trellis and harvest fruits when between 12-18 inches long. A couple of plants will give you dozens of fruits all summer long. Armenian cucumbers are delicious fresh (no need to peel), and in smoothies or juiced, and they also taste great in sushi or sandwiches.
About the Author:
Angela Judd is an avid vegetable, flower and fruit tree gardener. A mother of five children, she enjoys growing and preparing food from the garden for her family. She is a certified Master Gardener. She shares inspiration and tips to help home gardeners successfully grow their own garden on growinginthegarden.com. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.